‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved
into the neighbourhood’ John 1:14a (MSG).
Just as Jesus lived in a certain place at a certain time among certain people, we also live, work and play in proximity to certain people. As Christians, we seek to be good neighbours and friends just like anyone else, knowing that the greatest gift we can share with our neighbour is the freedom and hope we have through Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
My parents began their married life as missionary teachers in (what is now known as) Papua New Guinea. They soon discovered that the Jesus stories they shared had parallels with the stories local people already knew from their own traditions.
It was only as they lived among people who were different from them – in proximity and present to their daily lives – that they could notice where God’s Spirit was already at work. They weren’t coming into a vacuum – God’s Spirit was there ahead of them, just as Paul observed in Athens …
Read Acts 17:16–32.
Are there people you meet who consider the gospel message
to be ‘babble’? Are there others who are curious about your faith?
What are the points of connection between your Christian faith
and the thoughts and experiences of your neighbours?
Returning to Australia, my parents served in four schools during their careers in Lutheran education. Free to proclaim the gospel in their daily work, they also encountered numerous opportunities to share Christ’s love in action and words, among staff, families and students.
The invitation to be formed by the gospel is central to Lutheran education. Many staff and students point to a person who embodied the love of Christ for them and invited them to grow in trust and hope in God. Knowledge gained at school may come and go, but people whose lives shine Christ’s light are not easily forgotten.
Read Colossians 1:3–8.
Have you known someone like Epaphras, who reflected
the grace of God to you as you grew in faith?
Do you see where you might become this person for others?
While it might seem that my parents’ circles have become smaller over the years, some things don’t change: My parents now notice God at work just across the road from where they live, as they invest in being good friends, neighbours and proxy grandparents.
Sometimes my parents are invited to give an account of their faith, but most of the time they are just proximal and present, enjoying ‘doing life together’ with their neighbours.
Read Acts 8:26–40.
Notice how God’s Spirit guides Philip to approach the Ethiopian.
What is the first thing Philip says? Where does this lead?
Do you have your own story of a time when God led you
to someone with questions about faith?
If you are reading this in a group, share that story.
Many of my parents’ generation have a similar story of God going ahead of them in mission. In fact, you could say that their story reflects the LCANZ’s history and present reality.
When Jesus says to Peter, ‘on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ (Matt 16:18), we’d like this to guarantee that the LCANZ (and preferably our own congregation) will never close.
But this is not our reality. Instead, as many LCANZ congregations wonder what the future holds for them and the mission they have built, Jesus invites us to notice that he has already been in this place of suffering and uncertainty. Jesus completed his earthly mission by being present to his own suffering and death, for the sake of the world he loves so much.
Finish by reading Psalm 130.
Recall who holds the future of the church.
Recall the power of the Holy Spirit, who
continues to go ahead of us. What is the
invitation to you?
Kathy Matuschka is Assistant Director for Mission at the Lutheran Church of Australia, Queensland District, and is a member of Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Rochedale Qld.